woodland hills student tased WTAE-TV
Video captures a resource officer using a Taser on a student at Woodland Hills High School.

Former students sue Pittsburgh-area district over excessive force complaints

Federal lawsuit says the Woodland Hills district allowed a culture of abuse that resulted in injuries to students.

Five former students and their families have sued the Woodland Hills (Pa.) School District, alleging a culture of abuse at the hands of high school administrators, security members and school resource officers.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the former students accuse former principal Kevin Murray, two police officers and a private security team of physical assault, intimidation and filing false criminal charges against them in separate incidents. They accuse the 

Todd Hollis and Timothy O’Brien, attorneys for the students, contend that district leadership and other administrators ignored the alleged abuse.

They “created and/or acquiesced in a culture of verbal abuse, excessive force and intimidation,” the suit reads.

Four students have said in recent months that they were mistreated by Murray and school resource Officer Steve Shaulis. On Wednesday, the attorneys representing the former students said that a fifth has forward with a similar story.

Murray was placed on administrative leave last year while the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office investigated allegations of mistreating students, but he was reinstated in January after investigators declined to pursue criminal charges. He was on an unpaid leave since July because of problems with his administrator certification, and last week he resigned as principal and football coach at Woodland Hills High.

One of the student plaintiffs said Shaulis hit him so hard earlier this year that his front tooth fell out. The FBI and the district attorney’s office are investigating whether Shaulis used excessive force.

In a 2015 incident, a student was pinned to the floor by Murray while the officer shocked the student with a Taser.

The suit alleges that the plaintiffs, all of whom are black, have been discriminated against because of their race; it also contends that some were discriminated against because of their disabilities.

Video from April 2017 (WTAE-TV):

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